Autumn spiced butternut blondies

Autumn spiced butternut blondies

You’d possibly think after National Chocolate Week and Salon du Chocolat that I might want a tiny break from eating or thinking about chocolate – but if you do then you definitely don’t know me well enough!

Not only have I been munching on the goodies I brought back from the show, I also couldn’t resist orderinga chocolate brownie at dinner last night, bought a bar of salted caramel chocolate to get me through work this afternoon, and now I’m thinking back to these delicious blondies and wishing I still had one left to eat now.


This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, regularly hosted by Choclette but this month hosted by Jibber Jabber, challenged everyone to make something chocolatey with vegetables.

Exactly one year ago I was the We Should Cocoa host and chose pumpkin or squash as the theme, but I have to say I wasn’t entirely happy with my bakes and so I thought this would be a great opportunity to give it another go.

I’ve made a couple of different versions of butternut brownies, but this time decided to let the fabulous colour of the squash stay and go for blondies instead.

I based the recipe on one from the Whole Foods Market website, but cooked and pureed the squash rather than grating it for a squidgier texture, cut down the sugar and added a different mixture of spices to give them a bit of autumnal warmth.

They turned out pretty much how I’d hoped in both texture and taste – reducing the sugar worked especially well as the white chocolate chunks added just enough sweetness to balance the spice.

My colleagues were also a fan, and I think I would definitely make them again as they’re a great way of using up half a butternut squash if you don’t fancy making soup!

Autumn spiced butternut blondies (adapted from Whole Foods Market)

  • 400g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 55g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped

Start by microwaving the butternut squash for 8-10 minutes, or until soft enough to cut through like butter. Puree it with either a stick blender, food processor or potato masher, then set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until they triple in volume, then pour in the butter and vanilla with the mixer still running. Add the pureed squash and beat until just combined, then sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and fold into the mixture. Finally, fold through the chopped white chocolate then spread into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees (160 fan), until just set, then leave to cool before slicing into squares.


Apple pie

Apple Pie

Apple pie has been on my to-bake list for forever, and I really don’t know why I’ve taken so long to get around to making it – I love apples, love pie, it’s easy to make, doesn’t need any fancy ingredients and it’s perfect for the autumn/winter. I must have been mad for not making one sooner!

I did fancify this one a little bit by trying out a cream cheese pastry and adding a caramel sauce, but as baking goes it’s still very much at the simple end of the scale. If you can chop apples and press the ‘on’ button of a food processor you’re basically good to go!

I didn’t fall in love with the cream cheese pastry, apart from cutting calories I can’t really see any major benefit to it, but overall I loved the pie and would definitely make it again. It’s such a traditional favourite I don’t think there are many people who would turn down a slice!

Apple pie

For the pastry

  • 75g butter
  • 75g light cream cheese
  • 300g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar

For the filling

  • 6 large granny smith apples
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche

To make the pastry, add the flour and sugar to a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and cream cheese and blitz until it goes past being breadcrumb-like and starts to come together into a dough. With the food processor running, slowly pour alittle cold water down the chute, until the dough forms a ball that leaves the sides of the blender. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two pieces, one roughly twice the size of the other. Roll out the larger piece of dough and use to line a 10″ fluted flan tin, or smaller high-sided  pie tin if you prefer. Roll out the smaller piece and use a star-shaped biscuit cutter to cut as many stars as you can, re-rolling and cutting until all the dough has been used up.

For the filling, peel and core the apples, chop into quarters, lengthways, then cut into fairly thin slices. Toss in a bowl with the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1tbsp of the sugar, then spread evenly on top of the pie crust. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the rest of the sugar, stirring until it starts to bubble and thicken. Whisk in the creme fraiche, then pour over the apples.

Finish the pie placing the pastry stars all over top, making sure they slightly overlap each other. Brush with egg wash or milk, then bake at 180 degrees for about an hour, or until the apples are tender and cooked through. You can cover the pie with foil if the pastry starts to brown too much. Cut into wedges and serve!

Chocolate spiced parkin

Apologies for the lack of posts recently – there are a couple of reasons for this but the main one is that I have been stuck in a bit of a baking rut, making quite a few things which have either been a complete disaster, or just ‘ok’, and not really worth blogging about.

This chocolate spiced parkin kind of falls into the second category, but I wanted to blog about it anyway because I think it does have the potential to be really good.

Taken from my favourite chocolate cookbook by Joanna Farrow, it combines a dark, treacly, spiced parkin with lots of chocolate, and it’s a combination that works well especially at this time of year.

The main problem is that either the baking time stated in the book is far too long, or my oven just went into overdrive – I took it out after 45 minutes rather than 75, but it was still dry and overbaked, which made me rather sad!

I did make a few alterations to the recipe based on what ingredients I had (subbing plain flour and bicarb for self raising, and swapping light brown for caster sugar) but I don’t think these would have had a huge effect on the outcome…

It’s definitely still edible, and the pony has been particularly enjoying it warmed up with a bit of custard, but I think if I’d reduced the baking time it would have been a lot nicer to just eat straight up as a snack cake.

This recipe gives the baking temp and time that I used, but I would strongly recommend reducing it if you want to have a go!

Chocolate spiced parkin (from Chocolate by Joanna Farrow)

  • 250g dark treacle
  • 250g golden syrup
  • 125g butter
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 375g porridge oats
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 200g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oats to sprinkle on top

In a heavy based saucepan, heat the treacle, golden syrup and butter until the butter has melted, then remove from the heat. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and spices into a VERY large bowl, then stir in the sugar and oats.

Whisk together the milk and egg, then pour into the dry ingredients with the melted butter and syrup and stir until just combined. Add in the chopped chocolate, then pour into a lined 8×8″ square tin. Sprinkle the remaining oats on top, then bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes – but check after half an hour and if it’s cracked on top it’s probably done!

Blueberry autumn spice cake

When I made my blueberry curd last month, not only was it perfect for the October Tea Time Treats challenge of jams, curds and chutneys, but I also knew it would come in handy for the Best of British blogging challenge, which for October/November is all about Dorset.

Half of my family are from Dorset, and I went to uni in Bournemouth, so I know the area pretty well, but it was actually at a food festival in Plymouth where I discovered my favourite Dorset ingredient – blueberries!

The Trehane family (aka the Dorset Blueberry Company) have a blueberry farm just outside of Ferndown, and as well as selling plants and fruit have a fantastic range of bakery products – I’ve sampled the shortbread, flapjack and lemon tart, and all are fabulous!

I should probably point out that I haven’t been paid to say all this, I really am just a fan! Although sadly the blueberries in this recipe aren’t from the Trehane farm, the recipe is definitely inspired by them.

As we’re well out of summer now, I gave a light sponge cake, studded with juicy blueberries, a bit of an Autumn twist, by adding a spoonful of pumpkin pie spice, which wasn’t overwhelming but complimented the fruit nicely.

The filling is a layer of my blueberry curd, and a layer of blueberry curd buttercream – I couldn’t resist cramming in as much blueberry as possible!

Blueberry autumn spice cake

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 100g blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 6 tbsp blueberry curd
  • 50g butter
  • 75g icing sugar

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar together then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift together the flour and pumpkin pie spice, then gently fold into the mixture with the blueberries. Divide the mixture between two 7″ sandwich tins, and bake at 170 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until risen and golden.

While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream by beating the butter with the icing sugar, then stirring in half the blueberry curd. Spread a layer of buttercream on top of one cake, and a layer of blueberry curd on the underneath of the other, then sandwich together. Cut into slices and serve!

The Dorset themed best of British challenge, sponsored by New World Appliances, is being hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage. There’s a £50 Amazon voucher up for grabs for one lucky entrant this month, but the deadline is tomorrow so you better be quick!

Pumpkin spiced chocolate chip flapjacks (GF)

As the host of this month’s We Should Cocoa, I am taking the liberty of entering twice – no one can stop me! Mwahahaha…

The pony’s new job involves quite a lot of physical work meaning he needs to eat EVEN MORE than before, so I’ve been trying out quite a few recipes for various bars that are easily transportable and can snacked on whenever he has a spare minute.

I found this recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip granola bars at Two Peas and Their Pod that seemed to fit the bill, as well as tying in nicely with my selection of pumpkin for We Should Cocoa.

In my mind, granola bars implies more add-ins, clumps and crunchy bits, which is why I’ve renamed these flapjacks, but really the name isn’t that important – the incredible smell of them baking is!

I have absolutely fallen in love with my pumpkin pie spice and am using it wherever I can. I don’t think I’ll be getting bored of it for a while, so apologies to any spice-haters – normal non-spice service will be resumed eventually…

I made a few substitutions to make the recipe fit what I had on hand, including swapping apple sauce for a mashed over-ripe banana and honey for golden syrup, but they turned out fine, and I think this recipe could probably be adapted a lot further if you wanted to.

Added bonus is that these bars are both gluten and dairy free (and vegan) with the pumpkin and banana taking the place of butter. If you wanted to make them healthier, you could probably swap the sugar for calorie-free sweetener – something I will be trying soon…

Pumpkin spiced chocolate chip flapjacks (GF) (recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

  • 325g rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 125g fresh pumpkin puree
  • 70g (1 small) ripe banana, mashed
  • 65g golden syrup
  • 150g light brown sugar

Add the oats, spice and chocolate to a large bowl and stir to mix together. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, banana, golden syrup and sugar until no lumps remain, then add this to the oat mixture, stirring in until all the oats are covered. Press down firmly into an 8×8″ square baking tin, lined with baking paper, then bake at 180 degrees for around 35 minutes, or until golden and crisp on top. The bars will stay chewy because of the pumpkin, but undercooking could make them soggy so be warned!

This is my second entry for We Should Cocoa – thanks again to Choclette and Chele for letting me host!

I’m also going to enter these flapjacks to the One Ingredient Challenge, hosted by Laura at How To Cook Good Food and Nazima at Franglais Kitchen, who chose pumpkin as this month’s ingredient.

Baking with pumpkin – the basics

After selecting pumpkin as this month’s We Should Cocoa ingredient, I set about shortlisting pumpkin and chocolate recipes.

Pretty quickly, I realised there are two essentials if you want to bake with pumpkin – pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice.

I’m sure in many places both of these things are readily available to buy, but I’m yet to see either of them here in Cornwall, so I thought that in case anyone else has the same dilemma I would post the super simple ways to make them yourself.

First up, pumpkin puree.

Get a medium sized pumpkin and chop into wedges. Scrape out the seeds then place skin side up in a roasting tray with a little water in the bottom. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees, or until the skin darkens and begins to wrinkle and the flesh softens.

Leave to cool, then peel the wedges and discard the skin (or eat it, if you’re me). Chop the flesh into chunks then blend in a food processor for a couple of minutes until fully pureed.

1 medium pumpkin produced 500g (or 2 cups) of puree, which I think is probably the same amount you’d get in one can. A bit more time consuming than buying it, but still not hard, by any stretch of the imagination!

For pumpkin pie spice, I used a recipe from My Baking Addiction, with the only change being to tone down the cloves.

Literally all you have to do is measure out the ingredients, mix together, and store in a spice jar. It will make enough for several uses, but that shouldn’t be a problem with all the delicious pumpkin recipes out there waiting to be tried! It would also be a great partner for apple, or other seasonal bakes.

Both my pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice have been tested out in my first pumpkin cake, which I will blog about very soon – and they worked out perfectly!